The mission of the Reserve Forces is to "contribute to the UK's military capability, both deployed overseas and in the UK, whilst maintaining links with society and the local community."

Currently, one third of the Armed Forces of the UK comes from the ranks of the Volunteer Forces. Some 35,000 men and women serve in the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR), the Royal Marines Reserve (RMR), the Army Reserve (AR) and the Royal Air Force Reserves (RAF Res). Within the North East, there are some 2,500 volunteers in the RNR, RMR, Army Reserve and RAF Res.

Reservists are ordinary people who come from diverse backgrounds. They give up their spare time to train and serve alongside Regular personnel in the Armed Forces. As valued members of the Defence family, Reservists enhance their everyday lives through adventurous and challenging experiences. They receive world-class training to develop new skills and qualifications to boost their civilian lives.

In recent years, the role of the Reserves has transformed dramatically following the downsizing of all three Services in the 1990s and the increased operational activity overseas since 2001. The requirement for a highly skilled, professional Reserve to augment their full time counterparts has become of the utmost importance in order to maintain an effective national defence. The effectiveness of the Reserves was proven when, in 2003, 6,900 personnel were mobilized as part of the force which liberated Iraq - some 15% of the total deployed force. In subsequent years, the Reserves have continued to supply high-quality men and women to theatres around the globe and have supplied an average of 1,200 personnel each year. The most recent restructuring of the Reserve Forces aims to fully integrate Reserves with their Regular, full-time colleagues. With this reorganisation of the Reserves, the already high standards are set to rise once again.